NY State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has determined that Westchester County has not been living up to its obligations to protect Blind Brook and the Kensico Reservoir from polluted airport runoff.
The DEC determined that the airport violated its permit to pollute twenty-one times from January 2014 through June 2016. These violations are related to excessive discharge of deicing fluid into Blind Brook. Additionally, the airport failed to submit required test results on time for linear alkylbenzenes twice, on February 19, 2015 and March 16, 2016. The violations are disclosed in the DEC’s complaint against Westchester County. The “BOD” parameter refers to “Biochemical oxygen demand,” which is an indicator of deicing fluid.
Most of Westchester County Airport’s runoff goes into Blind Brook, a short river that flows from the airport past our communities into Long Island Sound. This runoff carries with it pollutants such as deicing fluid, oil, and solvents. The EPA, in conjunction with the DEC, requires that the runoff be tested to determine whether the airport is in compliance with its permit.
EPA data shows that Westchester County has often exceeded limits on what it is allowed to discharge into both Blind Brook and the Kensico Reservoir. Notably, all but one of these exceedances has occurred since August 2013, despite the number of flights having fallen since the restrictions in the permit were put in place. We believe the dramatic increase in violations is likely indicative of the systematic dismantling of the airport’s environmental protections under Rob Astorino.
For more details, see the EPA’s Detailed Facility Report for the airport. The outfalls in the reports are as follows:
|001||Stormwater discharge from Detention Pond “B”||Blind Brook|
|003||Stormwater discharge from Detention Pond “A”||Blind Brook|
|004||Stormwater drainage from the Hangar “E” facility, Runway 16/34, Runway 11/29, Taxiway “C”, Taxiway “K”, General Aviation tie-down area||Rye Lake (Kensico Reservoir)|
|007||Stormwater drainage from aircraft runup ramp, General Aviation tie-down area, automobile parking, Buildings 1, 2, 3, 10, 15 roof drainage||Rye Lake (Kensico Reservoir)|
|010||Stormwater drainage from auto parking, Buildings 4, 5, and 11, aircraft parking, Hangars 6 and 26, Hangar 6 Aircraft Pad and Hangar V Entrance Road||Blind Brook|
The DEC has proposed a consent decree where Westchester County would be fined $32,400. $11,400 will be waived if the county stops violating its permit and builds upgrades to the airport’s deicing fluid collection and stormwater management systems.
Why was this allowed to happen, and why are Westchester taxpayers once again paying fines because Rob Astorino’s administration failed to live up to the requirements of the law? It’s bad enough that our environment was polluted. Blind Brook flows past Purchase College and homes, schools, and parks in Rye Brook and Rye on its way to Long Island Sound. The pollution has a real impact on residents, as described in this report from Purchase College. But beyond the quality of life issues, it is deeply troubling that our government under Rob Astorino has not taken its obligation to protect our waterways seriously. It is doubly concerning when the affected waterways include the Kensico Reservoir, the drinking water source for over 9 million people, including 85% of Westchester.